Saturday, July 25, 2009

Sharm debacle scripted in US

What made PM crumble so abjectly?

Shashi Tharoor may have been cavalier in describing the July 16 India-Pakistan joint statement, issued after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Sharm el-Sheikh, as a mere “diplomatic paper that is not a legal document” and hence not binding on either country or worth the attention it has attracted, but the Pakistanis are hopping mad. On Friday, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said, “The insinuations made by Shashi Tharoor were unwarranted and inconsistent with diplomatic norms.” Both countries, he added, should refrain from remarks that “detract from the progress made in Sharm el-Sheikh.”

While Mr Tharoor’s supercilious comments, which should really have been put out by him as part of his daily ‘tweet service’ instead of being told to mediapersons at Parliament House, are unlikely to have stumped too many people within and outside the Government, what is surprising is that the Pakistanis are incensed. Here was an opportunity for them to turn around and say, “If the joint statement is not binding on India, nor is it binding on us.” And that would have put to an end needless speculation over whether or not Mr Gilani will fulfil his assurance that “Pakistan will do everything in its power” to “bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice”, an assurance that, we are now told by Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna, prompted our Prime Minister to compromise national interest by delinking terrorism from talks.

But neither Mr Tharoor’s flippancy nor Mr Krishna’s stout defence of the joint statement answers questions that have come to dominate public discourse ever since our pusillanimous Prime Minister’s shameful capitulation in Sharm el-Sheikh. Nor, for that matter, does Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon’s sly attempt to deflect criticism of Mr Singh by suggesting that the joint statement’s “drafting was not perfect” provide us with a clue as to why our tough-talking Prime Minister turned so disgracefully timorous when he met Mr Gilani.

Soon after the 26/11 carnage in Mumbai, the Prime Minister told a shocked nation that “some Pakistani official agencies must have supported” the fidayeen attacks. On December 11, 2008, while speaking in the Lok Sabha, he was all fire-and-brimstone when he described Pakistan as the “epicentre of terrorism”. He added that “the infrastructure of terrorism has to be dismantled permanently” before India can even consider resuming dialogue with Pakistan. On June 16, when the Prime Minister met Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari in Yekaterinburg, he told him bluntly, and in front of mediapersons, “I must tell you quite frankly that I have come with the limited mandate of discussing how Pakistan can deliver on its assurances that its territory would not be used for terrorist attacks on India.” On July 9, Mr SM Krishna told Parliament, “Notwithstanding Pakistan Government’s assurances to us, terrorists in Pakistan continue attacks against India.”

Between July 9 and July 11, something happened that turned all that bluster into pitiful whimper. On his way back from the G-8 summit in L’Aquila, the Prime Minister, discarding all pretensions of pursuing a tough, no-nonsense policy on Pakistan, said India would “walk more than half the distance” if Islamabad offered a “renewed reaffirmation” of its promise to “bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai massacre to justice”. The demand that the “infrastructure of terrorism has to be dismantled permanently”, that “Pakistan must deliver on its assurances that its territory would not be used for terrorist attacks on India”, suddenly metamorphosed into a timidly expressed expectation of “renewed reaffirmation” of a promise that the whole world knows Pakistan has no intention of fulfilling.

By the time the Prime Minister met Mr Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh, that expectation had turned into snivelling submission to Pakistan’s insidious motives, best exemplified by the inclusion of the implied allegation of India’s involvement in the separatist violence in Baluchistan in the joint statement. No less worse was the Prime Minister’s endorsement of Pakistan’s long-held contention that “action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed”.

Perhaps the Prime Minister believed that he would be feted back home for his gutless deed in Sharm el-Sheikh, if not by the masses then the morally bankrupt middle classes which had collectively ensured his continuation in office by voting for the Congress in this summer’s general election. We can also presume that he had hoped the Congress would be ecstatic and ruthlessly put down any dissenting voices in Parliament and outside. On his part, he would claim that nothing had been conceded to Pakistan, insist that it was a splendid diplomatic victory, and demand that all patriots should support the appalling sell-out of India’s national interest. After all, that’s how he craftily manipulated public opinion and political support in his favour so as to let the US have its way on the nuclear deal.

This time, however, the Prime Minister’s bluff has been called, if not by the middle classes, which are still besotted with him for not finding it offensive to be called an American stooge, then by the masses. There is national outrage over his capitulation in Sharm el-Sheikh and even the Prime Minister’s spin masters masquerading as journalists in the English language media have been compelled to ask some discomfiting questions. As for his party, the Congress, sensing popular revulsion, has steadfastly steered clear of coming to the Prime Minister’s defence.

To the Prime Minister’s credit, he did try to sell the sell-out as a great achievement that his genius alone could accomplish. No, he told Parliament, delinking Pakistani terrorism from peace talks does not mean we will talk to the sponsors of cross-border jihadi violence. Only to be controverted by his Minister for External Affairs who subsequently told India Today that the Prime Minister agreed to delink terror and talks because “we will have to continue to talk to Pakistan (as) there is no alternative”. But to talk, both Mr Singh and Mr Krishna insist, is not to resume the ‘composite dialogue’. That’s bunkum because the joint statement clearly mentions the ‘composite dialogue process’, which includes the ‘Kashmir issue’, and not casual tittle-tattle over tea and biscuits.

What, then, forced the Prime Minister to swallow his brave words and do a grovelling act? Was the debacle at Sharm el-Sheikh scripted in Washington, DC? Or is this the first step towards the Prime Minister facilitating the fruition of President Barack Hussein Obama’s AfPak policy which can succeed only if Pakistan is suitably mollycoddled and allowed to regain its ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan via the Taliban? That would also involve India winding up its development programmes and shutting down its diplomatic missions in Afghanistan. The line of least resistance which has come to define the Obama Administration’s approach to Pakistan is now being slavishly replicated in South Block under the Prime Minister’s tutelage.

[Appears as Coffee Break in Sunday Pioneer, Jyly 26.]


Arun said...

This subservience to the US is not confined to Congress. Recently, Tarun Vijay proposed new institutions be established in Ayodhya to be solely run by NRIs. Since when have resident Indians been relegated to second class status?

Karan Thakur said...

Hi Kanchan,

Nicely written and aptly put, are you suggesting that the PM's capitulation is part of the Obama Administration Af-Pak policy, whereby Pakistan raises Balochistan/ "Indian" terror camps in Kandahar and we respond by leaving Afghanistan?

Deshabhakta said...

जिसको मरना है मरने दो, जिसको मारना है मारने दो, किसीको डरना है तो डरने दो, जो डराता है उसे डराने दो, किसी को हम पे हसना है तो हसने दो

लेकिन हम तो पाकिस्तान से बात करेगा...

iamfordemocracy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
iamfordemocracy said...

Why is it a "Sharm debacle"? US is the superpower and it can armtwist India if it wants to. US agreed to sell India some advanced weapons recently. India had to acceed to US wishes in some areas as a part of the deal.

What is wrong in that?

Jaideep said...

@iamfordemocracy: If thats the defence fine then why doesnt th govt come out clean with this reason?If the UPA spells this out officially I would not object (I wont have to because the govt will be gone the same day)

liberal said...

Indo-Pak problems would have been sorted out long time back if people on both sides had not made it a conflict of Hindu-Muslims. The fact is that it is a conflict between Secularists and fundamentalists on both sides of the border. On both sides we have institutions and pol parties that promote inter-religious hatred. Unfortunately, to compound the problems more for us the Pakistan army patronizes fundamentalism, but fortunately our army has remained insulated from such patronization though fundamentalists tried their best to do so.
We got to fight Pakistan not as a Hindu state but a secular state.

Anand Rajadhyaksha said...

'Sharmnaak harkat' by MMS, seems to have no 'sharm' in selling the nation down the river.

iamfordemocracy said...

@Jaideep, government cannot say everything it wants to. Diplomacy demands caution. Congress and the government have had to toe the US line. If BJP exploits this to its own political advantage, I would have no quarrel with it as it would be a part of their tactics (they don't seem to have any but we will give them the benefit of doubt this time).

I cannot understand why 'Hindu Nationalists' and independent thinkers are against an agreement with US. Funny that TOOTBWAHNP the owner of the blog with a Hindu Nationalist Perspective spent most of his productive time serving the US, and is practically an American in this thinking, yet he shouts the loudest when it comes to Indo-US agreement.

I believe that at the moment aligning with US is in the best interest of India. My comment is for the eyeballs of all those who do not have any party affiliation.

M. Patil said...

iamfordemocracy said...

"I cannot understand why 'Hindu Nationalists' and independent thinkers are against an agreement with US."

Because, this particlular agreement does not serve any Indian interests. Independent thinkers do not understand why a tiny nation like Sri Lanka can ignore U.S. but not supposedly 'future super power' India.

"I believe that at the moment aligning with US is in the best interest of India. My comment is for the eyeballs of all those who do not have any party affiliation."

Not true. I think Obama's Af-PAK policy is disastrous for India. His administration seems to think diverting Jihadis away from U.S. will serve U.S interests and is pursuing its interests. Never mind that these Jihadi scum will be unleashed on India. Moreover, they are arming Pak army, which is the problem. We just don't see how this short term expediency by U.S is going to help India or even U.S in the long term.


M. Patil said...

U.S a declining super power says professor Vaidyanathan

"Such a declining Empire is dangerous to deal with. To start with, it does not want to accept the fact that it is a declining Empire.
Plus, it wants to retain its sole power status when it realises that its writ does not any more hold good. It tries to bully India.
Whenever a US official visits India, the beards in J&K become more active. Remember Robin Raphael of the nineties vintage who propped up the Hurriyat Conference? India recalls with anger the role Robin Raphael played during the Presidency of Bill Clinton in encouraging the formation of Hurriyat Conference, the umbrella organisation of moderate terrorists and terrorised moderates. Her only name to fame was she studied together with Clinton. When Hillary comes to India, the level of violence in J&K will increase. I wish someone in foreign office in India plots the correlation between visits of US officials and mob frenzy in the downtown Srinagar."

M. Patil said...

"Make no mistake: The U.S. has imposed EUMA on states that are under its security protection or classified as allies. But India is a notable exception as the only EUMA-accepting country that has a special defence relationship with Russia, which is transferring to India strategic systems America will not even consider selling — from a nuclear attack submarine to an aircraft carrier. China complains Russia won’t sell it the same class or quality of weapons it gives India."

" After all, as the pattern of current arms sales and offers underscores, American transfers are intended not to help India gain a combat edge but to promote regional military balance and U.S. leverage."

Says Brahma Chellaney

liberal said...

It is a wishful thinking that U.S. is a declining power. Dont you know that Indian saying: Maraa hua haathi bhee sawa lakh ka hota hai

We should also keep in mind that China is a common adversary of democratic countries. The way that China is spreading influence over Arab/African Islamic area is also a matter of concern for India and the other democratic countries. On the other hand there is little chance of Pakistan becoming a state with powerful democratic institutions.
In the given situation there is no alternative other than democratic countries shouldering together though we should always be wary of friends that are stronger than us.

At the same time I do not disagree with the right of the opposition to protest anything that looks fishy to them. But in a democratic process an always 'crying wolf' mode can reduce you to the present situation where opposition is today.
A discussion, that is not out of context, healthy and in sync with democratic values would pay dividends. Otherwise you would keep on crying wolf.

Pak army chief exploits Baloch bungle said...

Reports in the US media quoting official sources said Pakistan army chief Ashfaque Kayani recently sought to link Pakistan's actions against Lashkar-e-Taiba with India putting a stop to its alleged covert operations in Balochistan.

"By the way, India has to stop messing around in Balochistan," US media quoted Pakistani officials as saying.

M. Patil said...

Liberal Said ...,

"It is a wishful thinking that U.S. is a declining power. Dont you know that Indian saying: Maraa hua haathi bhee sawa lakh ka hota hai"

The professor made a good argument to make his case. What is your case?